At an age when most people are well into retirement, pianist Charles Segal is even more inspired and passionate than ever.

Filled with a zealous enthusiasm for life and the music he produces, 88-year-old Charles is a man who has lived a great deal and shows no signs of stopping soon. 

"You’re as old as you think you are," says Charles, who vibrantly lives as if he were in his early thirties.  

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A South African Grammy winner and composer of over 10,000 individual piano compositions who has collaborated with great names such as Tony Bennet, Duke Ellington Marilyn Monroe, and Frank Sinatra – Charles has come a long way from the small Lithuanian town he was born in during the late 1920s. 

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With a life so accomplished, many may wonder what events lead to his tremendous impact in the music industry, including his ultimate accomplishment of becoming the world’s Most recorded pianist. 

His journey began when he was forced to flee from his home country as a child along with his mother, Riva, and brother Louis, to evade the terror of the Russian Bolsheviks and impending threat of Nazism. 

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"I was very young, but I still can remember the fear of my mother, who had to bolt the front door and shutter our windows when the Bolshevik raids entered our town. One of my earliest memories is my mother hiding me in an oven to keep me safe. My mother always told us about people being grabbed and roughed up in the streets and Jewish store windows being smashed and properties being defaced and vandalized. Some of my cousins were rounded up and shot to death at the walls of our synagogue. Others were taken away to concentration camps and never seen again."

Riva’s sister-in-law lived in Pretoria, South Africa, and she opted to emigrate there with her sons to safeguard their future. Charles' father had already gone ahead to establish a home for the family. 

Throughout the journey, she braved through Nazi-centered nations like Poland and Germany, before finally arriving by boat to the arid jungle refuge of Africa. 

Whilst on the ship Charles received his very first music lesson from a pianist who was also onboard. 

Sitting on the pianist's lap, he sat staring, mesmerized by the black and white keys and the different harmonies they produced. 

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After being exposed once, the toddler was hooked, proceeded to play the piano every day until their ship docked in South Africa – earning the sobriquet “Pinta Musica” from his fellow passengers. 

Having already witnessed more than their fair share of tragedy, the Segal family might have expected to find solace in their new home. But the adversity was far from over. 

Charles and his brother found it difficult to adjust to their new environment, and were ridiculed by other children. 

"I think this was partially why I was so close to my mother, who was a gentle, talented person and taught me to love her mandolin playing and singing. This was probably also why I took solace in playing music – first on the mandolin and then the piano. It was a refuge for me as I could lose myself in my playing."

Finding his obsession early on in life, Charles began to nurse his innate musical talent. His mother, an experienced mandolin player, was one of his first introductions to the world of notes, pitches, and cadences. 

However, he began to take the piano more seriously in his teens and as a young adolescent, he was eager to attract the attention of girls. 

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"In Muisenberg, Cape Town, I saw all the girls surrounding a guy playing the piano. He was the most popular guy around. I wanted that! So I spent all night on my own mastering a boogie woogie tune on the piano and the next day I was surrounded by girls while I played my one and only song. That was my springboard into taking up the keyboard." 

Luckily Charles had a cousin in South Africa, Simmy Yuter, who owned a music school and was more than happy to develop his talent. 

Eventually, he earned diplomas in musical performance and began to teach piano. He had come to master the classical sheet music he had been given by an array of teachers, but found himself craving something more. Bursting with a need to create, the budding pianist began to compose his own melodies.

Charles was fortunate to be surrounded by a wealth of musical culture, growing up in a hub overflowing with rhythmic African beats that would later influence his unique artistic style. 

"There was a club in Pretoria, South Africa, and they had a trio band – bass, drums and guitar. I would watch them play quite often. One day they asked me to sit in and play with them. I was about 16 years old. The crowd went wild and everyone started dancing. For the first time, I realized that I may have some talent. I knew from that moment that I would make a career out of the piano." 

Charles went on to play regularly, and the years 1953 to 1986 marked his peak – he made recordings, opened a music school, appeared on radio shows and was featured in the USA on Supreme Master Television. 

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Throughout that time, his talent and passion to create presented him with a number of opportunities that would have been beyond the dreams of the average musician. 

"I met Frank Sinatra on the set of the Manchurian Candidate movie – he was acting in a movie with my cousin Lawrence Harvey (whose family had escaped together with us out of Lithuania). Frank was an absolute class act. I played some music for him and it was the thrill of my life when he sang along. It was one of the most remarkable moments in my life." 

Shortly afterwards, he met Marilyn Monroe, whom he ran into while she was eating breakfast with Shelley Winters at Child’s Restaurant in New York City. 

Privileged to meet her just months before her death, Charles sat down and spoke with Marilyn for an hour. 

Remembering that moment, he said: "She was one of the sweetest and most genuine people I have ever met."

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By now, Charles had become a prolific performer and was enjoying the height of his success. 

He arranged over 50 long-playing recordings for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and was frequently asked back by the network to play for several productions. He also wrote several songs that he dedicated to his adopted country and which incorporated elements of the South African culture in which he had been raised. 

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They included titles such as ‘Africa’, ‘Kwela, Kwela’, ‘Sy Kom Van Kommetjie’, ‘Kalkoenkie’ and ‘Hy-Ba-Ba-Rie-Bab’  - many were performed by African and Afrikaans singers. 

One of the most defining moments of Charles’s career came in 1973, when his song ‘My Children, My Wife’ (co-written with Arthur Roos) was voted Song of the Year by South African audiences. 

Presented with the respected SARI Award (equivalent to a Grammy Award) by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, renowned surgeon, who had performed the world's first heart transplant, he had now received one of music’s most honorable awards at the age of 44. 

"Music definitely helped me overcome obstacles. It helped me be distracted from pain and helped me turn, sometimes, bad situations into good ones. ‘My Children, My Wife’ was created during the time I was prevented from seeing my two young children for too many years, and I was approached by someone with a poem about missing his wife and children. Together, we turned our suffering into a hit country song." 

Charles did not limit himself after earning the SARI Award, in fact, he pushed himself even harder, driving his career, music, and potential all the way to the top. 

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Decades later, after practicing three hours a day for three-quarters of a century, the professional had racked up over 15,000 recorded tracks, debuted at hundreds of concerts, and had become a resident pianist at the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes gifting lounges; ingraining himself into the Hollywood scene. 

But the seasoned musician was determined that the legacy of his work should amount to something greater – so, in 2016 he applied for a Guinness World Records title, aiming to become the Most recorded pianist in history. 

"It took me and my assistants about 5 years to upload, organize and sort my database of some of my songs. We actually still haven’t even got to the entire catalogue – for the Guinness World Records title we submitted only 11,721 of my song recordings, but I probably have around 25,000 tracks of different pieces I’ve recorded – and many are my own compositions."

Discovering that he had indeed achieved a new Guinness World Records title, at the age of 88, proved to be a bittersweet moment for Charles: just before he received the news of his iconic record, he was diagnosed with a severe health problem. 

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Despite the hardship he currently faces, he admits the global recognition of a world record has sparked an inner strength that has helped him to persevere the excruciating symptoms of his illness.

In fact, having been informed about both his ailment and his newly awarded record title in the same week, Charles opted to continue producing the music that earned him world-class recognition rather than succumb to the illness. 

He arranged to meet up with twenty-somethings David Keiffer and Joe Griffith from British pop group, Life of Dillon, to collaborate and compose more music. 

After a few hours in the studio, he forgot his pain almost instantly. "Hey, I lose my pain when I’m with you!" he announced to the group, which prompted Keiffer and Griffith to continually polish a song with the experienced pianist for the next few hours until it became a sensational track. 

"And suddenly there was born a song collaboration between young and old. It was about the battle we all face with one pain or another, either physical or emotional," said Joe.

Since that time, Charles has revealed no signs of halting his impact in the music industry, as he now oversees a music school in South Africa to encourage students in the area to lose themselves in the world of the piano. He also spends days coaching aspiring artsits and producers in his Los Angeles studio, motivating them to overcome their problems by way of music. 

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"It’s a spectacular feeling, playing the piano. The tones and sounds created by your mind and translated by your fingers into beautiful melodies are truly magical. Music really is one of the deepest and intimate ways I find to communicate. It has a healing quality because it opens up and soothes ones heart, mind, body and soul – I want to share that with others," - Charles Segal.

The pianist has made it clear he has much more to accomplish in his lifetime, including more records. 

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Of the countless honours he has received in his life, he believes that having a Guinness World Records title is one of the most exceptional, as it represents being recognised on a global stage. 

"I am so proud of my Guinness World Records title. I’m still in awe that of all the people who have ever played the piano throughout history – I have recorded the most songs. My collection of recordings has literally taken a lifetime to create, and the timing of this award could not be more serendipitous. I want to inspire everyone to realize that no matter your age, no matter how long it takes and no matter how many or how great the obstacles life throws your way, you can achieve your dreams if you remain passionate and never give up!"